Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Too Far Out To Be Rescued?

CNN recently reported two British sailors were rescued after their rudder broke on their 42 foot sailboat and they were adrift in the Atlantic for 40 days. CNN stated the Coast Guard told the two they were "... too far out to be rescued". Our friends at an Unofficial Coast Guard blog have also written about this incident here.
What's the truth? Did either the United States Coast Guard or Rescue Coordination Center Falmouth actually tell these people they were too far out to be rescued? It's doubtful.

The sailors aboard the stricken sailboat Sara initially notified search and rescue authorities of their situation in January. At that time, according to official reports, MRCC Falmouth weighed all rescue options, including Amver. The sailors believed they had enough food and water to continue on their journey while making repairs to their boat. One message, relayed to search and rescue authorities by an amateur radio operating assisting in the case, quoted the sailors. "All is swell" they reported.

Several rescue scenarios were considered including towing the sailboat by a commercial tug, which proved too expensive for the sailing duo. An offer was also made by a friend of the crew to sail out in another boat and render assistance.

On February 18th a call was received by United States Coast Guard search and rescue personnel from the radio operator. The sailboat, Sara, was running low on food and water. An immediate call for assistance from Amver vessels was made. The M/V Indian Point, an Italian flagged tanker, answered the call and diverted to assist. Another vessel, the M/V Moor, also offered to help but was released because the Indian Point was closer.

Within 7 hours of notifiying coast guard personnel they needed to get off the sialboat, the crew of the Sara were safely aboard the M/V Indian Point. This seems like a less grim situation than reported by the media.
Thankfully all the components of the search and rescue system worked perfectly. Because of the efforts of the United States and Falmouth rescue coordination centers, amateur radio operators, and Amver vessels, two lives were saved.

The work of search and rescue coordinators goes mostly unnoticed. To learn more about the job they do, often as the only contact for people in distress at sea, read this post.

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